What is a Generalised Anxiety Disorder?
Constantly and without relief, your mind just can’t stop contemplating the ‘what if’s?’
What if the kids get sick? What if your partner has an accident? Do we have enough money to pay the bills? Am I doing enough at work? Do I fit in with my friends? What am I doing with my life? It never ends, and it’s exhausting.
In our busy world, it is totally normal to experience a certain amount of anxiety and stress, and in some instances, it can actually be a positive thing! But when it persists, and that worry and stress become a constant weight on your shoulders, it’s possible that your anxiety may have moved into disordered territory.
What is Generalised Anxiety Disorder?
Generalised Anxiety Disorder is marked by constant worry and stress about life’s circumstances that persists for a majority of days over a 6 month period, but without any other anxiety disorders such as panic attacks, phobias or obsessions.
People struggling with generalised anxiety disorder tend to focus on two or more specific worries, which commonly include money, relationships, health and work or school/work performance, and have difficulty exercising control over these worries.
The intensity and frequency of the stress and worry are almost always totally out of proportion to the actual likelihood that the feared events will even happen, and can become limiting and interfere with basic functioning when left unchecked.
How can I tell if I have Generalised Anxiety Disorder?
There are a variety of symptoms associated with Generalised Anxiety Disorder, and no two people will experience it in exactly the same way. For generalised anxiety disorder to be occurring, symptoms of worry, physical tension and high arousal must be present for most days over a period of 6 months.
These might include:
- Nervousness or restlessness
- Difficulty falling or staying asleep
- Poor concentration
- Heart palpitations
- Frequent urination
- Muscle tension
- Easily fatigued
- Irritable or depressed mood
- Light headed or dizziness
- Constant state of “high alert”
- Shortness of breath
The constant state of stress that occurs with anxiety can also result in other physical illness, such as headaches, high blood pressure, insomnia, irritable bowel syndrome and even osteoporosis.
How common is Generalised Anxiety Disorder?
It is estimated that 14% of all Australians experience Anxiety in any given year, but only 6% of the population will experience Generalised Anxiety Disorder across their lifetime. This tends to be more common in women and can develop at any age.
Children and adolescents tend to worry about school or sports performance, and adults commonly worry about work, money and health.
Despite their prevalence, anxiety disorders respond very well and often quite quickly to treatment, so it’s not worth continuing to suffer (and worry!) in silence.
What are the Treatment Options?
If you suffer anxiety symptoms, it is important that you see a Doctor to rule out a medical condition. Some drugs and supplements can cause anxiety, so it’s best that you let them know about any prescriptions, over-the-counter medications, herbal remedies or recreational drugs that you might be taking. If a medical cause is ruled out, the next step is to see a psychologist who has experience treating anxiety disorders.
The specific treatment approach will depend on the severity of your anxiety symptoms, and whether they are happening in tandem with any other depressive or anxiety disorders.
Generalised anxiety disorder often occurs in conjunction with depression, so it’s important that you share this in order to find the right treatment for you.
In general though, anxiety disorders are usually treated with behavioural therapy, medication, or a combination of the two.
As with depression, anxiety disorders have been found to respond very well to treatment, but the best results are found when people are motivated and willing to make a change to their lifestyle.
Some changes that have been found to reduce the intensity of anxiety include:
- Utilising deep relaxation techniques, such as meditation or muscle relaxation
- Regular Exercise
- Cutting back on stimulants, such as coffee and alcohol, and sugar
- Increasing downtime
- Learning to acknowledge and express your feelings, rather than ignoring them
- Using positive self-talk to create a calmer and more accepting attitude
How can we help with Generalised Anxiety Disorder?
At the core of anxiety is worry, and the key to treatment is to make sure you have the tools you need to appropriately deal with that worry before it becomes more than it needs to be.
When you come in, your Psychologist will gain an understanding from you about how you are feeling and thinking, and what is happening in your life. You will most likely be asked to do some simple tests, and these will help to assess the severity of your anxiety, and whether you are suffering any other symptoms of anxiety or depression.
You will also be asked questions to uncover what might be the causes and stressors in your life, and your Psychologist will work with you to devise a treatment plan that will suit you and your lifestyle.
After your initial session, you will have some insight into what the problem is, a plan for therapy for the future, and some initial strategies to help get you started.
Our Hart Psychologists specialise in all types of Anxiety and know how to help. We have specialist Psychologists in all capital and most regional cities. Phone our friendly receptionists for more information and to help you find the right Psychologist for you. Phone 1300830552.